In-line thermoformer Fabri-Kal Corp. is adding equipment and 200,000 square feet of space in Hazleton, Pa., for its growing rigid plastics packaging business.
Fabri-Kal is acquiring three new, Italian-made OMV E76 in-line thermoforming machines, giving that site a total of 15 thermoforming lines.
The firm also is adding five Polytype printers to the two printers already located there.
The additional manufacturing and warehousing space is enlarging the Hazleton plant to 484,500 square feet, Tom Bush, vice president of engineering, said in a telephone interview from Fabri-Kal corporate headquarters in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Fabri-Kal's other plant, in Greenville, S.C., operates 14 in-line thermoforming lines, including six OMV machines, and runs seven printers.
That facility has 454,000 square feet for manufacturing and warehousing.
Fabri-Kal consumes more than 100 million pounds of resin per year, principally high-impact and crystal polystyrene, polypropylene, high density polyethylene and amorphous PET.
``Based on our knowledge of polypropylene-dedicated equipment, Fabri-Kal is the largest thermoformer of PP in the United States,'' said Don Wark, senior principal with Harborside Research Group in Salem, Mass.
``We pull a lot of business away from injection molding,'' said Scott Tindall, Fabri-Kal marketing manager.
``We can lightweight material by 20 percent over injected parts while improving packaging performance.''
Custom business growth is fueling the expansion. Custom work now accounts for about 45 percent of the business and includes soup trays, cereal bowls, dose cups, baby-care products, and pudding and yogurt cups for packaging brand-name food. Customers include Kraft Foods Inc., H.J. Heinz Co. and Procter & Gamble Co.
Fabri-Kal provides ship-to-stock services for Kellogg Co. and General Mills Inc.
The remaining 55 percent of the business involves Fabri-Kal's stock rigid plastic products for institutional food services and convenience stores.
Owner Robert Kittredge founded Fabri-Kal in Kalamazoo in 1950 and continues as chief executive officer.
Manufacturing in Kalamazoo was discontinued in 1991, but that site retains in-house design, research, development and engineering functions as well as the corporate offices. The company also has five domestic distribution centers.
Fabri-Kal employs 700, recorded 1998 sales of $123 million and, historically, has kept a low profile.
``Customers know we are a force,'' Tindall said.